The Challenges of Saving Lighthouses

This is reposted from Swallowtail Keepers Society blog. The blog is abandoned but the post is worth saving. Far more involved with saving lighthouses than I would have thought. (I did think about the weathering).

Lighthouses are usually located in the face of storms, exposed on several sides to strong winds and sea spray, frequently difficult to get to and challenging to maintain. With lighthouses de-staffed or de-commissioned, budget cuts rampant, and maintenance minimal, it is hard to see these once well-maintained structures deteriorate to a point that they begin to crumble but it is becoming all too common. The magnitude of the maintenance or restoration, and the ability to get to the lighthouse is often overwhelming. We have been fortunate with Swallow Tail that ownership has been transferred, access is challenging but better than many, and through the support of the community and access to various sources of funding, restoration work has been possible.

Unfortunately, in five months, three other lighthouses in the Maritimes have disappeared. Two collapsed during storms, the abandoned Fish Fluke Point on Ross Island decommissioned in 1963 but defied gravity for years (November), and Church Point on St. Mary’s Bay, NS, decommissioned in 1984 (March), and one burned to the ground, the remote fibreglass lighthouse at Point Aconi on Cape Breton Island (February). Fire was always a worry before lights were electrified. Elodie Foster, one of the light keepers at Swallow Tail, died from her injuries after her clothes caught fire while trying to start the burner for the light. More recently, electrical issues may be the cause of some fires because of the heavy salt presence and corrosion of electrical connections. Two electrical issues at Swallow Tail threatened to cause fires last fall and had no one been working in the lighthouse, the problems would have gone unnoticed until it was too late. Vandalism has also been a cause of some fires and has plagued locations such as Partridge Island in Saint John, and may have been the cause of the grass fire at Swallow Tail in April, 2007, which threatened the lighthouse and keepers house. It has prompted some communities to install security cameras. The ones at Swallow Tail can be viewed on the Village of Grand Manan website (www.villageofgrandmanan.com).

Fish Fluke Point lighthouse in better days.  (unknown origin of photo)

Collapsed Fish Fluke Point lighthouse as seen from the air in November 2013.

Church Point lighthouse before collapse. (from CBC.ca)

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Church Point lighthouse after collapse, 27 March 2014. (from CBC.ca)

Point Aconi lighthouse before it and the building beside it, burned to the ground in February, 2014. (from Cape Breton Post)

Collapse was not thought to be an issue at Swallow Tail but once work began last fall, it became apparent that it could have been possible. The lime had eroded out of the mortar, making the mortar crumble. The stone foundation was slowly pancaking, with the stones being pushed outward. The eight guy wires and the massive concrete floor in the equipment room were the only things holding the tower upright with probably only five large stones in the foundation carrying weight. Had any of the guy wires failed, the tower would have begun listing or worse. To fix this, all the stones were removed, one side at a time, and then returned with new mortar between the joints. The large corner stones, too heavy to easily lift, were adjusted back into place. The foundation is now functional again and should last for many more years with minimal maintenance.
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Peter Devine rebuilding stone foundation at Swallow Tail, September 2013.

During this process, it was discovered that the large wooden beam under the front door had completely rotted away. The remains of the beam were removed using a dust pan. Instead of trying to fit a new wooden beam back in a very tight space between the large immovable concrete step, stone foundation and the floor joists, a concrete beam was constructed. One of the 1859 wooden pegs, used to hold the heavy timber structure together, was discovered in the crawl space during the work, looking the same as the day it was made. This was the only spot were the heavy timbers of the lighthouse had completely rotted.

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Rotted timber beam under front entrance, September 2013

New concrete beam to replace rotted timber, September 2013.

Salt corrosion is another challenge, rusting nails so they no longer do their job. When some shingles were removed on the northern side of the bell house, the boards underneath came off as well. This was also an earlier problem with the boathouse and the entire southern wall began to fall off in large pieces as the nails disappeared and that wall had to be rebuilt. The shingles were stripped off the bellhouse, the boards renailed, and new shingles returned. Shingles on some sides of the tower were also falling out because the nails were gone. Face nailing to hold them in place during previous work only complicated the problem with water getting behind the shingles and rotting the wood. Several places on the tower, notably where the windows had been boarded up, were in worse shape than the rest of the lighthouse, even though the boards were only 40 years old compared to over 150. As the rot continued, longer nails were used to hold the shingles which further exacerbated the problem. It was very noticeable while scraping the sides where the problems were located because of the sponginess. Replacing the rotted wood and shingles where required, caulking the nail heads, plus one to two coats of primer and two coats of finish paint will prevent this for a few years. Because of the extreme weather conditions experienced on the point we hope in the future only the paint will suffer and not the wood behind.

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Northern wall of the bell house.  The nails had rusted off and the boards had to be nailed back in place before the shingles could be attached.

Areas on the lighthouse that needed repair because of water penetration causing rot.  The area around the fog horn was because of caulking and flashing failures.  The upper area on the tower was probably because of face nailing shingles allowing water to penetrate.

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Custom blade on paint scraper.

The entire lighthouse and bell house were scraped, primed and received two coats of paint.  The new shingles were primed twice.

Removing the windows in the tower in the 1970s was actually beneficial in many respects since there was little maintenance after the lighthouse was destaffed, but it changed the interior with no natural light or ventilation. Having the opportunity to return the windows to the original locations in the lighthouse was a goal during the restoration but a challenge since everything had to be built from scratch. One window could not be returned because the current fog equipment is located in that spot on the first floor. Windows from an 1849 house in Ontario were donated by the owners, who had once worked at a lighthouse in British Columbia. They were honoured to have them reused at Swallow Tail. The storms and gablets (or dormers) were new construction from mahogany with copper flashing and sills in an attempt to resist the harsh climate. The interior has been completely changed with the additional of natural light and makes it a very pleasant inside.

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Reglazing 1849 windows donated for the lighthouse.  The bottoms had to be cut down to 8 from 12 panes.  New glass was installed in each window.

Window unit – gablet with storm, all new construction.

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Windows restored on the southern side of the lighthouse.

The harsh winter weather stopped work in mid-December at the lighthouse. Work will begin again sometime in April. The windows and interior will be completed including repairing the lathe and plaster and painting, the boardwalk from the keepers house (cabled in place to protect it from the strong winds) will be built, and museum displays installed. We are hoping to have the lighthouse open again this summer. Restoration work could not have been possible without the financial assistance of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Regional Development Corporation, New Brunswick Built Heritage, Village of Grand Manan, Grand Manan Rotary Club, and generous donations.

Nudity in Ruined City Landscapes

Sasha Kurmaz is a Kiev-born photographer. In his 2013 book, Concrete & Sex, the artist reveals that his personal interest in architecture stems from his graffiti background, where he trekked the city in search of good locations for his art. “While walking, I kept looking over the city. This is the magic of these brutal shapes; functionality, and a frank expression of materiality,” he says. “During these trips I have always done pictures to remember the place and go back at night to paint – sometimes I just shoot the landscapes of the city.”

Via dazeddigital.com

Painted Rock Cactus

I think this is a great idea. If you have the skill or pattern/ design to make it as detailed as this one is. Great idea for a rock garden, literally.

Katie Loves …a plant for those who lack any sort of green thumb. Paint smooth stones to look like cacti and nestle into a planter just the same. No watering or sunlight required.  Photo: El Nido de Mama Gallina

Source: A Painted Plant For The Gardening Impaired

Ideas for Halloween Blog Posts

happyhalloweenTired of the same old holiday posts? Try writing about these!

How to make your lawn look ghastly for Halloween using simple stuff like zombie flamingos, garden gnomes and such which you can buy on eBay and poke into your grass.

How to dress like a slut for Halloween without alarming your Mother

Lingerie in Halloween colours to perk up the late night trick-or-treaters.

How to keep your kids from eating too much candy on Halloween – give them healthy snacks instead and threaten to hang them off the roof while they barf if they don’t eat the healthy snacks

Dress up your pets for Halloween so they can guard your kids from the pumpkin bashing bullies

How to store your Halloween costumes, especially those which are not flame retardant.

Halloween gifts for your boyfriend who didn’t return all your 1,000 text messages yesterday

Play with trick-or-treaters: Get a stuffed dog for Halloween and put on tapes with spooky music and a dog barking in the background. Let kids think the dog is safe and then sick your real dog on them.

What to do if your child is choking on Halloween candy? – feed him more until it all goes down

Decorate your house in pink for Halloween – for breast cancer. Don’t forget to use your husband for the big boob in the centre

Old fashioned Halloween costumes – spray paint your children

Gather all the children’s toys you’re tired of picking up and recycle them into Halloween monster toys like babypedes and other monsterish, gruesome things.

Shoes to wear for Halloween, wind, rain, snow or slime

Halloween movies to watch with your dog, or cat. Write about movies with dogs or cats, or goldfish with a Halloween theme

Halloween tapes like Monster Mash which you can play over and over to torment teenagers who don’t appreciate the 70’s… yet.

Use mannequins to create a Halloween family eating dinner around the table. Make this the night you invite the neighbours for dinner. (They don’t need to bring anything but extra seasoning wouldn’t hurt them).

Tacky, trippy or just plain terrible sweaters for your loved ones at Halloween

Safe chemicals to throw on your children when their cheap Halloween costumes ignite

More reasons why candles are not a good thing for children to carry while trick-or-treating

Creepy Halloween toilet paper to use for papering houses, cars, people, pets, etc 

How to make your own creepy sound recordings for Halloween without really harming any children or pets.

How to spray foam on cars which is not shaving cream (which melts paint apparently)

Use cookie cutters and hot wax to shave creative Halloween patterns in your chest (or back) hair

Pumpkin City: Early for Halloween

Pumpkin city

I especially like this idea. I could make a row of them like a candlelit village. I’d rather have these than a scary jack-o-lantern face.

Pumpkin City

A passel of pumpkins provides the backdrop for a quaint village scene.

Step 1: Carve a hole in the bottom of each pumpkin, scoop out the pulp, and return the cut pieces.

Step 2: Print out these house templates. Resize on a copier, scaling the images to fit your pumpkins.

Step 3: Cut out stencils as directed on the templates and affix to pumpkins with masking tape. Trace on the designs with a felt-tip pen.

Step 4: Remove stencils, then carefully carve along the drawn lines of the houses’ windows with an X-Acto knife. Fill in the designs using a fine-tip brush and black flat acrylic paint; let dry. Affix a battery-operated votive candle in the base of each pumpkin with adhesive putty.

Read more: Country Living

Flower Blossom Cookies


These will cheer you up for Spring. Still more snow here in Barrie today. But I did find these in a flyer at the grocery store yesterday.

Flower Blossom Cookies
Ingredients

1 cup [250 mL] butter, softened
1/2 cup [125 mL] sugar
1 egg
1 can [300 mL] Low Fat Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 tsp [10 mL] vanilla
4 1/2 cups [1.1 L] All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp [2 mL] baking powder
50 lollipop sticks

GLAZE
3 cups [750 mL] icing sugar
4-6 tbsp [60-90 mL] water

food colouring (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Grease or line baking sheets with parchment paper.

COOKIES:

Cream butter and sugar until well combined. Add egg, condensed milk and vanilla and mix until smooth. Mix in remaining dry ingredients.

Divide dough into 4 pieces. On a lightly floured surface roll each piece to a ¼” (5 mm) thickness. Cut out flower shapes with 2”- 3” (5 cm-7.6 cm) floured cookie cutters and place on prepared baking sheets. Place lollipop stick underneath cookie, lightly pressing dough onto the stick. Gather up scraps and repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until beginning to colour. Cool on racks.

GLAZE:

Combine icing sugar with water. Brush a thin coating of glaze over cookies. Allow to dry for 10 minutes. Divide remaining glaze into small containers. If you run out just make a bit more. Add different food colouring to each container. Using a small paint brush, paint each cookie any way you like.

TIPS:
• Sprinkle on decorations such as coloured sugar or sprinkles while the glaze is still wet. They will dry and stick to the cookies.
• Wrap stems of cookies with tissue and ribbon to make a bouquet.

Makes 50 cookies